Finding ways to cope

We’ve all heard that adage – that change is the only constant – so often that it doesn’t even seem to hold much meaning any more. But that’s the problem with age-old wisdom. It sits there in full view, crying out for our attention, but in the manner of most things that we know to be true but disregard nevertheless, we ignore it, until of course we are confronted with a reality that brings the truth home to us in ways that can no longer be denied.

So perhaps we need to extend that idea with another one. Change is the only constant, yet it is the one constant we are always surprised by.

Summer gives way to winter, and we remark upon how cold it is and how unprepared we are. Then summer comes around again and we fan ourselves against the heat, wondering how we will manage through the brutal months of 40-degree weather, wondering how we ever did it in previous years. New faces appear in our classrooms and staffrooms, and we stumble through the rituals of becoming familiar with them. People leave in ways that should no longer be unexpected yet we struggle to remember what we did the last time we were surprised by such upheavals. Syllabi shift, along with the lists of books we had grown used to; new forms of testing are prescribed, and we go back to our planning sessions, to think about how to deal with it all.

These are the broad changes that we should expect, that we should be prepared for year on year, but often even these anticipated shifts unsettle us and throw us off balance. And then there are all the unexpected, unforeseen events that affect us as individuals, and as communities, which have us reaching deep within our resource banks for coping strategies.

School is a microcosm of the world; the shifts that we experience in our homes and in society are mirrored in smaller or larger extent in our classrooms and assemblies. They can affect the work we do and the interactions we are a part of. Some of us have the internal tools to handle these upheavals and smooth over the surface of our lives, while others need a helping hand to recover a sense of equilibrium. This time, we decided to look at how school can become a space where such a helping hand can be extended – to children as well as other members of the community. How can we prepare ourselves to be that steadying force? What can we, as teachers and administrators, do to handle the sometimes destabilizing winds of change that overtake our lives? We can never be completely prepared, but there are some things we can do to strengthen our ability to cope, and the articles in this issue give us a glimpse of these strategies.